K-9 dies in Utah prison vehicle, likely ‘heat related’

The dog was found dead in the vehicle on Thursday.

(Utah Department of Corrections) Loki, an 8-year-old Belgian Shepherd, worked as a K-9 in the Utah Department of Corrections until he was found dead on Thursday, July 13, 2023.

A police dog found dead in a Utah Department of Justice vehicle Thursday night likely died from “heat-related” causes, a prison official announced Friday.

The 8-year-old Belgian Shepherd named Loki worked for the department’s K-9 unit for six years, beginning in 2017.

A press release from the Corrections Department did not specify how long Loki had been in the vehicle before he was found dead in the Utah State Correctional Facility. It was also not specified whether the vehicle was equipped with air conditioning.

Although it’s unclear exactly when Loki was found dead, the temperature at Salt Lake City International Airport was 96 degrees around 6 p.m. Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. The prison facility where the vehicle was located is approximately 5 miles west of the airport. It’s unclear if there were any other K-9s in the vehicle at the time Loki was found.

The vehicle in which Loki died was specifically designed for K-9 travel and was equipped with a heat detection warning system, but no warning was received, Correctional Services executive Brian Redd said during a news conference on Friday.

It’s unclear if the equipment failed or failed due to operator error, Redd said. The State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the dog’s death.

Loki’s K-9 caregiver has been placed on leave while he works to process Loki’s loss, Redd said. There are currently no disciplinary measures against him.

(Utah Department of Corrections) Loki, an 8-year-old Belgian Shepherd, worked as a K-9 in the Utah Department of Corrections until he was found dead on Thursday, July 13, 2023.

Authorities should look for signs of heat stress, including panting, drooling, glassy eyes, dry tongue, vomiting and diarrhea, according to a guide compiled by the National Humane Society for law enforcement on investigating heat-related illnesses and deaths in dogs.

If a dog has been left in a vehicle, investigators should take and document the animal’s temperature and obtain a weather report that includes the temperature, heat index and humidity at that date and time, the guide said. Surveillance footage of the area should be taken to determine how long the dog remained in the car and photos should be taken to record the condition of the vehicle, including shadows, ventilation and signs of an escape attempt, including claw marks.

If the dog dies, it should be taken to a veterinarian for an autopsy immediately, the guide adds. It’s unclear what action the law enforcement agency or state investigators took after Loki’s death.

According to the press release, Loki was one of seven dogs who assisted two Utah prisons with drug detection, fugitive arrests, facility security and emergency response. It is unclear if the K-9 will be replaced.

“We are heartbroken at the loss of Loki, who has faithfully served this department,” Redd said in a statement. “We join in mourning with all of our employees, while determined to fully investigate the circumstances of Loki’s death.”

Justin Scaccy

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